Abridged History of the 10th Age
Papyrus of Khemret, First Book of the Dead
Death in the North
Most human lands in the North subscribe to some form of Akemic thought, which originally stems from the Books of the Dead. These were written by prominent Khewedi and Ishtrians during the Second and Third Ages, and detail a complex afterlife based on the Gods one served in life. This belief was enumerated during the Fifth Age and spread to the North and has taken hold there. It grew stronger in the Eighth Age when the death-cults of Akem finally found a foothold in the Northern lands. Now, most funerary services are performed by Akemite priests, who are considered to be the only ones holy enough to enact them.
Interestingly, the North holds to an ambivalent view about bodily resurrection at best. In the South (particularly in Khewedi) any resurrection not overseen by the priests of Akem (Medja in Khewedi) is an abomination and considered to be necromancy. Akem rarely permits the dead to return to the world of the living, and as such forbidden means of resurrection were first explored in Khewedi and Ishtria by necromancers seeking to break the cults’ stronghold on living again.
In the North, bodily resurrection is held as a possible goal for important crusaders of a God’s cause. It is not easy, for that God must defy Akem himself, but it can be done with the proper assistance to that God’s church. This is important in the adventuring business because friends tend to die a lot when you run out and fight horrible beasts in dank dungeons.
Death in the Milean Empire
The Scroll of Legends, Hierean Holy Text, Scroll 1, Verse 10, Line 2
Under the rule of the Third Empire, death is a ritual undertaken by Akemite priests who belong to the Rite of Endings. The deceased is prepared by Akemites and the body is then sent to the proper temple of worship based on the God the deceased most honored in life (or another God that the deceased left explicit instructions to be commended to). The Akemites watch over the body for three days to ensure that no evil spirits have entered it and then, after remanding the corpse to the specific temple, allow that Temple to do as it will.
The Hierian Temple, for example, burns the dead and sprinkles their ashes on the temple altar where they remain for a week before removal. However the Temple of the Pilgrim often buries the bodies of the dead at crossroads so that their spirit-essence may watch the roads and make them safe.
Burial Customs by Religion and Region
Dwarves, elves, and gnomes always bury their dead (albeit under circumstances quite different from one another). Halflings tend to follow the major religion in whatever region they live in, thus burning in cremation-dominated zones and burying in other areas. To be precise:
Burial is common amongst men in the Akemite faith the north over. For example, the huge Necropolitan Temple at Gadrada is filled with the bodies of the interred. In the Third Empire, Weyland, Dorlan, Claulan, Llyris, and the Vales the custom is to follow the Hierian cremation ceremony (though here still, Akemites, dwarves, and elves bury). In all other lands, burial takes precedence even in those places long ago settled by the Second Empire — they have reverted to the burial practices of their ancestors.
Liches, Zombies, and Unlife
Necromancers and their Arts, Orvius Kavalson, X478
The Rite of Endings, and indeed all Akemite rites, have an intense hatred for the undead. They were once extremely rare in the north; however, since the War of Necromancy the occurrence of such horrors as walking corpses and free-willed undead has grown tenfold.
Liches were originally part of a legend concerning Khewed, told as ghost stories to the wizards of the North to remind them to be moral and upright and not to seek too far for the secrets of the multiverse. In what seems to be a bizarre case of life imitating art, the first Liches to appear north of modern-day Ralashar seem to have been inspired by these legends. While rare enough, there have been a spate of Liches in the lands of the North such that any random passerby would be able to tell you what a Liche is, if not how they come to be that way or to name any specific Liches.
Liches are considered by many to be the primal form of undead from which all others spring. It is a common misconception that the Liche lords of the Fifth and Sixth ages invented the more commonly known practices of necromancy, like the creation of lesser undead. Indeed, the Necromancer was once a man in service to Lumiä during the early wars of the world. It is said that the Khewedi themselves discovered the means to enact necromancy.
Common folk the North over have a varied set of beliefs about the undead. For example, in Agstowe and Cymballar it is commonly thought that if the the dead are not interred for three days after their funeral before being buried they will walk the earth again as zombies; likewise, if they are cremated before this time they will become ghosts. Superstition runs deep, from holding your breath was passing a tomb-yard to placing an iron sickle above your doorway to ward off evil wights in the night.